Georgia State is not a place Black folks can call their own

Carissa Gray has been pulled from teaching in class at Georgia State University’s Perimeter Campus after calling campus police on two students who arrived late and refused to leave the classroom at Gray’s request.

No arrests were made in the incident. Both Gray and the two students are African American, and Georgia State boasts the nation’s largest undergraduate enrollment of Black students.

The two students met Monday with the university’s interim provost and interim police chief, Jones said. The English department chair and a student life representative met with the class, Jones added. The discussions were productive, (GSU Vice President for Communications Andrea) Jones said.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

What does it speak to when a Black professor at a predominantly, not historically Black institution considers police as a primary remedy for dealing with challenging engagement with students? Is it a personal failing? Failed institutional culture or infrastructure?

Perhaps it is none of and everything above all at the same time. When students disrupt a class, police officers are the only intermediaries to deal with such a situation in real time. When faculty or staff call the police to report an incident, they are generally believed and the situation is instantly regarded as unique with the potential to escalate because typically, staff wouldn’t or shouldn’t call cops unless there is a real threat of danger.

There are no solutions to prevent a situation like this. In an ideal world, a professor allows students to enter and sit for a class for which they’ve paid. A room full of adults is not derailed by late entry just as they aren’t at any professional conference or convening.

Ideally, professors would have far less ego and territorialism about classroom space they don’t own or even rent, but which they are paid to preside over by the students under their direction. Gray, in an attempt to protect her ego, never realized that she was actually shielding Georgia State space and culture from Black non-compliance, and commandeering public safety resources to hammer home that point to those students, everyone watching, and everyone who heard about it in the aftermath that this isn’t a place to get out of line.

She never thought that in defending unowned, unleased space not built for her or those students, her reputation and career could be just as ‘out of line’ as she perceived the students to be. And expendable.

It is not surprising that anyone in a position of authority at Georgia State, regardless of race, could at a moment’s notice perceive disrespect and imagined danger from Black students there. After all, no matter how many Black people are hired or enrolled there, it has always been and will always be a stop for them, not a home. The state allows Black personnel and students there as a means to secure growth for the institution, and Black folks are happy to make the exchange for earned paychecks and degrees.

It’s all just borrowed time and space that when all goes well, no one mistakes for a place they can truly call their own.

One thought on “Georgia State is not a place Black folks can call their own

  1. The professor was wrong, in my opinion. These are adults who are paying for an education and the professor’s salary. The professor halted her instruction to chastise two adults for being late, however; life’s circumstances will cause students and professors to be late, sometimes. You shouldn’t call armed police just to massage your ego… it’s dangerous! Consider this, when students come to class late or don’t show up at all, they are “not getting their money’s worth,” but it’s not the professor’s problem. These are not children, but paying adults, Period!

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